The Office of the Ombudsman has stood pat on its ruling finding sufficient grounds to file graft, malversation and falsification charges before the Sandiganbayan against Vice President Jejomar Binay, dismissed Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. and 22 other Makati City officials and employees over the allegedly anomalous bidding and construction of the P2.2-billion Building 2, a carpark.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered immediate filing of the charges after junking motions for reconsideration filed by the respondents, which means that the cases may be filed before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan anytime soon.
The Ombudsman’s office, however, will have to wait until the elder Binay’s term as Vice President expires before filing the cases against him considering, that as an impeachable officer, he cannot be charged for an offense that carries the penalty of removal from office.
“So what else is new? We have always expected [this move]from a biased and partial Ombudsman,” Joey Salgado, head of media affairs of the Office of the Vice President, said on Friday in reaction to the Ombudsman’s ruling.
Salgado added, “The Ombudsman resolutions are plainly political tools against the Vice President. Last year, the Ombudsman released its resolution against the Vice President on the day he filed his certificate of candidacy [for President in the 2016 elections]. Now it released another resolution on the motion for reconsideration just a few days before the start of the campaign period [on February 9]and after Vice President Binay regained his lead in the presidential surveys.”
Morales’ move, according to him, “fits into the orchestrated effort of [Manuel Roxas 2nd], the LP [Liberal Party] and its allies including Roxas’ mouthpieces masquerading as Palace spokesmen, to attack the Vice President.”
Roxas is the LP standard-bearer in this year’s presidential polls.
“We have never expected fairness and impartiality from the Ombudsman’s office. We look forward to disproving all [its]allegations in an impartial court,” Salgado said.
“In three separate Joint Orders approved on 03 February 2016, Ombudsman Morales affirmed the finding of probable cause against Vice President [VP] Jejomar Binay Sr. and Mayor Binay Jr. for four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of RA [Republic Act] No. 3019, six counts of falsification of public documents and one count each for malversation for their involvement in the various phases of the construction of the P2.2-billion Makati carpark project from 2007 to 2013,” it said in a statement issued on Friday.
Also named respondents were Marjorie de Veyra, Pio Kenneth Dasal, Lorenza Amores, Virginia Hernandez, Line dela Peña, Mario Badillo, Leonila Querijero, Raydes Pestaño, Nelia Barlis, Cecilio Lim 3rd, Arnel Cadangan, Emerito Magat, Connie Consulta, Ulysses Orienza, Giovanni Condes, Manolito Uyaco, Norman Flores, Gerardo San Gabriel, Eleno Mendoza Jr. and Rodel Nayve.
Also included were Orlando Mateo of Mana Architecture and Interior Design Co. (MANA) and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Co. (Hilmarc’s).
The project was constructed in five phases spanning the respective terms of the elder and younger Binay as Makati mayor.
“No public bidding was conducted by Binay Sr., et. al. prior to engaging the services of MANA as project designer. The evidence showed the procurement process was manipulated to ensure the award of the contract to MANA; and that four payments totaling P11.97 million were processed and approved despite the incomplete submission of deliverables such as design plans, working drawings and technical specifications,” the Ombudsman’s office said.
Negotiation and evaluation of bid proposals in November 2007 of seven architectural firms that supposedly participated in the multimillion project were “conducted with extraordinary speed,” it added.
According to the office, the Bids and Awards Committee(BAC) completed the negotiation proceedings in only one hour.
An initial evaluation report by the Commission on Audit (COA) Fraud Audit Office also found the negotiated procurement adopted by the BAC as allegedly improper.
“Investigation found that city officials colluded with Hilmarc’s to manipulate the outcome of the five ‘public biddings’ for the purpose of ensuring that Hilmarc’s would be awarded the contracts. The construction projects were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the lack of the required publication of the invitations to bid, with Hilmarc’s as the lone bidder in four phases of the project,” the Ombudsman said.
Morales noted that the construction began even without approved design standards, contract plans, agency cost estimates, detailed engineering and programs of work.
“No pre-procurement conference was undertaken and bid documents were made available only for one day in violation of procurement rules and regulations,” she said.
The Ombudsman’s office’s fact-finding investigation began in September 2014, followed by the preliminary investigation in March 2015.
In October 2015, Morales ordered the younger Binay’s dismissal from the service and perpetual disqualification from holding public office after finding him administratively liable for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty in the parallel administrative case.
Vice President Binay is running for President in the May 2016 elections.
Spokesman Maria Janina Hidalgo of the Office of the Ombudsman has said, “If ever VP Binay wins in the coming elections, likewise, we will have to wait for another six years before we can file our case[s]against him.”